The Los Angeles Kings entered the fourth and final quarter of the regular season with a determination to get into the playoffs. After all, what seemed like an expectancy in October didn’t look as promising by the end of February. Whatever was the spark, worked.
While the Kings went an impressive 12-5-3 during the fourth quarter (which included a season-high six-game winning streak), they received some much-needed contributions from many players who were more or less silent all season long.
While Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown each put up respectable numbers this season, their presence was only felt late in the season, just in time for the fourth quarter to begin. Kopitar caught fire in the final quarter, registering eight goals and 16 assists while Brown wasn’t too far behind as he tallied seven goals and 12 assists over the final 20 outings. In fact, of the final 20 games, Brown or Kopitar found their names on the scoresheet in 17 of them. The latter even celebrated a career-high 10-game point streak.
Speaking of scoring, the Kings got plenty of it from Justin Williams. He may not have been front-and-center for much of the season but he did what he’s so notorious for: picking his game up late in the season and into the playoffs. In the final 20 games, Williams collected 10 goals and nine assists with two PP goals coming in the second-last game of the year against San Jose on Saturday night.
From the aforementioned to Doughty to King to Voynov, Los Angeles finally had a chance to see their offensive outlets all come out. None was more benefivcial from this than Mike Richards who, after struggling during the middle of the season, found his way again when he and former teammate Jeff Carter were reunited in late February via a trade from Columbus. While the deal was met with skepticism, Jeff Carter proved that he belonged in the middle of the Kings’ offensive output. Although Carter did miss the final few games of the season with a foot injury, he is skating and should be ready for the playoffs, which is nothing short of fantastic news heading into the playoffs.
The special teams department, believe it or not, is where the Kings collectively excelled most. Heading into the season’s final quarter, Los Angeles had a decent total of 36 power-play goals. However, with a rollercoaster of a year in said department, which included many Kings fans suggesting the firing of (assistant coach) Jamie Kompon, it was clear that Los Angeles wasn’t the most intimidating when up a man or two. In the last quarter, though, the Kings scored 13 power-play goals and even added four shorthanded ones for good measure.
Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the outstanding play of the Kings’ deserved MVP this season: goaltender Jonathan Quick. As if he wasn’t having a storybook season already, Quick registered three shutouts in his team’s final twenty outings and is now, despite the league’s all-too-evident east coast bias, involved in serious talks for the Vezina Trophy, awarded to the league’s top goaltender.
To say the first three quarters were turbulent would be a mild understatement. Whatever the reason, though, the Los Angeles Kings really found their way during the campaign’s final stretch. There were some games where they reverted to old habits but overall, a great showing and I cannot wait to see how they fare in the postseason.